London

London region to become 1 of only 3 places in Canada to offer volt hockey

The London region will soon be one of only three locations in Canada to offer Volt hockey, a type of floor hockey geared towards young players with lower mobility difficulties, such as muscular distrophy, spina bifida and cerebral palsy.

The Middlesex Centre YMCA in Komoka will offer the only program of its kind outside the GTA

A boy plays volt hockey, a type of floor hockey that uses a custom-built motorized wheelchair controlled by a joystick. (Variety Ontario/YouTube)

The London region will soon be one of only three locations in Canada to offer volt hockey, a type of floor hockey geared towards young players with lower mobility difficulties, such as muscular distrophy, spina bifida and cerebral palsy.

On Sunday, a group of hockey players from Scandanavia will visit the region and hold a demonstration of the sport, which requires a specially-made motorized wheelchair. 

Sofia Caldwell is the centre manager at the Middlesex Centre YMCA in Komoka. (Sofia Caldwell/LinkedIn)

The chairs cost about $10,000 apiece and are custom made by a Danish company that ships them to Canada. The Middlesex Centre YMCA in Komoka, Ont. will be receiving eight of the chairs, thanks to a donation from Variety Village, a Toronto-based sports charity geared towards kids with disabilities. 

Starting March 23, the Komoka YMCA will be the only place outside of the Greater Toronto Area where the sport is on-offer and the third such program in the country alongside Markham and Scarborough. 

Once the program is launched, the sport will be played in three Ontario locations, meaning organizers can then form a league, according to Komoka YMCA manager Sofia Caldwell. 

"Three is certainly enough for us to get a league format where we can visit the other cities and run tournaments and these players can meet other players who are playing the sport as well," she said. 

Volt hockey is similar to blind hockey or sledge hockey in that it allows players with a disability to play the game.

A gentler version of our national game

Volt hockey chairs, seen here, cost roughly $10,000 each. They can turn 360-degrees and are capable of speeds of up to 13 kilometres an hour. (Variety Village)

What makes volt hockey unique are the custom-built motorized wheelchairs used by the players. They're nimble to say the least, able to turn 360 degrees and capable of speeds of up to 13 kilometres an hour.

For safety, they come equipped with a four-point harness seatbelt for the player and to play the game, a hockey stick is mounted to the front of each chair to allow players to pass, shoot and control the ball using a built-in joystick. 

"These chairs are very sturdily-made," Caldwell said. "They require very little maintenance." 

Caldwell said facilitators aren't worried about too much wear and tear on the chairs, since unlike many other forms of hockey, volt hockey is non-contact. 

"This is not an aggressive sport that's for sure," she said. "It's not encouraged to have the chairs crashing into each other. It's more based on skills of manoeuvring the puck around the players." 

Cadwell said the most important part of the program is the fact that volt hockey will allow players with certain disabilities to have access to a sport they otherwise wouldn't be able to have. 

​"It will be really cool to see these kids who have never been in a specially-designed hockey chair like this pick up the skills from this program and I can't wait to see how they progress," she said. 

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca